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2 (part 3)

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At the end of the day, Soujuurou left school and went on straight to work after.
His other part-time jobs were kept a secret from school authorities, so they only had a record of his work at both the Chinese restaurant and the fish market.
The long list of part-time jobs he had were hardly the issue. It so happened that the places he worked at had a tendency to break the law in the past.

Today's part-time work featured a prime example of this tendency -- at a pachinko parlor situated in front of the station at Yashirogi.
Changing out of his school uniform and into the issued black tuxedo they gave him, he started his work at sweeping around the parlor.


The station of Yashirogi was the face of Misaki City. Dozens of shopping buildings were strewn in front of the station, all trying to outdo each other in their businesses. Even the shopping arcade added to the spectacle with the clamor it generated.
The hundreds of people here were made by the hundreds who gave birth to them.
Romantically speaking, it was a wonderful thing.
Realistically speaking, people were not so much being distributed,
as they were contributing to being dregs in the city.

In a community that wanted to build on decency and wholesomeness like Yashirogi, those two conditions were absolute.
Establishments like this parlor made for strong cases against them.
Soujuurou had to be mindful to do most of his sweeping in front of the hall during the day, the hall where the unsavory types slipped into the building.

Under the cold wintry sky, Soujuurou swept cigarette butts, picked up leaflets, and threw empty cans away.
His sweeping was as close to the lifestyle he had in the mountains as he could get. Soujuurou cheerfully went about his work as if it were just natural for him to do.

Having swept most of the entire area, he went back inside the parlor and its cozy warmth.
The racket coming from the slot machines and their customers was harsh on his ears.
Shrinking from the thick cloud of cigarette smoke hanging in the air, he passed through it and headed for the main office.

"Sir? I've finished my sweeping."
"Alright, good job. Say, do your boss a favor. Could ya go check on one of our customers upstairs? The one punched in for machine number forty?
She's got deep pockets, that lady."

The manager was a good man who was once an office worker.
Hiring Soujuurou---- had nothing to do with his admiration for a student who was standing on his own two feet.
It so happened that his entire staff was made up of people who were far too menacing for the customers to be at ease in the parlor, so he needed at least one employee that was less of a heart attack.

"Really, sir? I haven't cleaned the toilets yet."
"It's OK, don't worry. See, our camera's got a blind spot where she's at so we dunno what's going on up there.
Sou-chan, you've gotten so much done as of now. Go take a peek for me, would ya?"

Doing as he was told, Soujuurou put his broom away and went up to the second floor.

The pachinko parlor was a typical two-storied building belonging to a wide class of establishments.
Essentially, and without setting any limits for its target revenue, the parlor made its mark in this town by steadily and greedily acquiring money from every person that lived in it.
But, its practice also drew a very mixed crowd of customers into this line of business.

Something that people did for fun, was also exploited by the pros who made a living from their gambling habits, and it eventually got the attention of those seeking to make a dishonest profit from playing the game.
The pachinko machines here were especially prevalent since the mid-80s. By tampering with the program found in the electronic features of these machines, scoring the well-known "three seven's" became an actual dream come true for those cheating at pachinko.

Obviously, letting these people get inside the parlor would be going against the wishes of the owner, but as long as there was no proof that they were up to no good, they had no right to refuse them entry.
Beyond the service industry itself, suspicion could not incur punishment.
Ergo, catching a red-handed culprit was an act of justice for the parlor.
Soujuurou had zero clue what it actually meant to call these people "cheaters".
All he knew was that 1) they were an embarrassment to the parlor, and 2) they broke the rules by being involved in dirty work.

He reached the second floor.
It was so much more quiet up here, even with the cable radio blaring along to the sound of the pachinko machines.
There were more than eighty of these machines compared to the ground floor's hundred count. The vacancies were scattered on this floor, but customers always came streaming in when it was evening.
Machine number forty was in the middle row.
As he casually leaned on the wall peering into that same row, he got a glimpse of the lady, whose lucky streak was very much on fire tonight.

One look was enough to set off Soujuurou's hunch that she was unlike the other customers.
While he should be asking what made her do so well in the game, she really was remarkable personified.
In a way, he could see for himself just how strong her luck was at winning.
Amid the other customers' feverish gusto, she just turned the machine's handle without saying a word.

She was some years older than Soujuurou.
The outline of her whole body was dressed in Western-style green. Both her outerwear and skirt seemed assembled into a single piece of clothing.
Her feet were wrapped in stockings that covered her bare skin.
Crossing her thin and pristine legs, she was poised for a model's photoshoot in a pachinko parlor.
The reddish tint of her short, raven hair complimented the striking combination of her scarlet lips and her coolly worn glasses.

In all honesty, a person as beautiful as her would never be seen striking it rich in a pachinko parlor of all places.
Four big boxes were stacked at her feet, and she showed no sign of slowing down at the game.
With her thin sculpted fingers, she boredly lifted a long cigarette to her lips.

"'s like......"
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, the bespectacled lady's eyes drifted over to the wall---- and saw him.
A chill ran up his spine.
The scream that threatened to give him away, was stifled by the hand that shot up to silence it.
"That lady, is yesterday's......!"

Gripped by a hunch that he had no proof for, Soujuurou bolted off and away from the scene.
He had to leave now. He sprinted for the ground floor.
His headstart to get out of the parlor was set in motion, so he hurried back to the manager's office and gave a minimal account of upstairs.

"Sir, I'll be taking off now. Also, the upstairs floor is clean."

Soujuurou made his report, somehow keeping his panicky state in check. Stuffing his uniform into a paper bag, he fled the parlor.

The overcast seemed to make the night's shadows multiply tenfold. Soujuurou cut through Yashirogi's shopping district and fled into the station.
He sprinted up the stairs, as fast as a flying arrow. Fetching his student pass from his wallet, he quickly sent himself through the ticket gate.

Crowds of people were in line at the ticket gate, chatting with each other as they each went through the barrier.
This and the reserved faces of station workers beside the automatic ticket gate, were filling him with a bit of relief in the station hassle.
It was another day at the city, if he had to say so.
Just in case, Soujuurou's eyes darted all over the vicinity, and saw nothing from the previous night coming after him.

"---- *sigh*."

He let air back into his lungs again.
He was having a moment to himself when he suddenly jerked to a halt.
Peering over his shoulder, he expected to see someone there.
Then again, there was no maniac that was going to come after him like this.

"......Well, now that I've thought of it......"

He tore out of that place without warning, so it made no sense for him to be chased here at all.
.................................................. .................................................. .................Opponent
In fact, the more he thought about it, there was never anything like 'Danger' spelled out in huge letters across that lady's face, was there?
Slapping himself on the cheeks and picking up his spirit again, Soujuurou hurried his pace as he went down to the station platform.
Only to find that he had to wait for the express train, thus compelling him to sit down and collapse on himself right then and there.


Soujuurou took one more deep breath.
Around him stood people waiting to catch the express train with him.
......Neither hide nor hair of a 'someone' coming after him.
'I've been thinking too much.' He finally let his head be cleared of any notion that he was in danger.
Yet, something was weighing his shoulders down more than his disappointment.

"......I know why I'm tired. This is about my constitution."

Tireder than he thought he was, Soujuurou heaved a sigh.
Things were nothing but rough for him ever since he came down from the mountain, but he was patient enough to sit down and reflect on his life from before. Such as now.
Physically, he still had plenty of fight left in him.
It was his heart that wanted to give up on all of this.

This place and the mountains he left behind had nothing in common with each other.
Taking it as a fact and coping with his new life in the city were two very painful things for him to do.
Letting the city grow on him was easy enough. Since people were creatures that could get used to anything thrown their way, they could also manage with minding their own businesses.
And so, not having an easy time was likely to be noted.

"......It's true. Anyway, I'm just drowning in all this work."

At last, Soujuurou betrayed himself with the one complaint he always kept quiet about.
Truth be told, he was still a nervous wreck about stepping out of his apartment and going into town.
City people had their whole lives to get to know the city, but for him, it was all so strange and new. Getting the shock of his life at every turn while he was here, was bound to make him give up eventually.

"......Of course......maybe it's not my health giving out......"
"It's because, I saw something that isn't real."

Muttering to himself, Soujuurou gave a small shake of his head.
Only the things that were there were real. That was how the world worked.
Both he and Tobimaru were on the same page with that, but Soujuurou knew for a fact that last night's incident took place in reality.

This was a country full of magic compared to the mountains he was born in.
Then, it was completely normal for there to be actual magicians living here in secret.
Just the thought of it made his feet propped on the chair quiver. Immediately, he realized that it still scared him to death.
The last time something unnatural scared him off, was when he was jumped by a wild bear on the mountain path as a child.


"Uh, no. That's not really an example.
I would've screamed either way."
Soujuurou cracked a smile, remembering the shock of that event when he was still young.

Any animal that lumbered out of the woods growling and groaning while over two meters tall, was bound to cause any person to faint from the shock.
After seeing a movie featuring a giant unknown beast acted out by a stuffed animal just two days ago, his grit from living in the mountains amounted to zero -- because an imaginary wild animal could still unnerve him.
Remembering that, it was possible that he stood some chance from making it this far.

"......That's true. The problem right now is, errrrr......maybe the last words I caught them saying. How are they going to 'Do away with what they seize'?"

They would have meant that literally, if they were going for too literal.
The words seemed to speak for themselves, and giving them serious thought was bad enough. Either he misheard something, or it was just a slip of the tongue, and he wanted to settle it with a throw.

"As it goes in the city......someone always comes to deliver a penalty, hm......?"

While speaking for himself, he also thought for sure that it could involve someone besides him, so he wanted to write his entire experience into taking place in a dream.
Sighing, Soujuurou let his eyelids drift closed.
As his vision faded to black, he tucked away everything from before this.
For now, everything from the previous night was going to be put as far back into his mind as possible.

Opening his eyes again, his breathing had completely settled down.

"Speaking of which.
What happened after Tobimaru tried to hit Aozaki?"

The question just came up for him all of a sudden.
Alerted, Soujuurou got to his feet just as the express train and its lights pulled in.
----------------------------------------------------------------END OF CHAPTER----------------------------------------------------------------

Soujuurou takes after Hume's irrational, openminded heart. We'll see him move away from ignoring cause and settle for a Copernican perspective of his world. His, not theirs.


"I'm just the chief's dog, OK?"
- The name of Kotaro's dog in the 2007 anime film Sword of the Stranger is "" (Tobimaru).

Updated February 18th, 2017 at 02:14 PM by T-Toh